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Gheos by Rene Wiersma

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Anonymous

The following review was one of the most refreshing I have done for the entire contest, although it might be a bit cerebral for the average-Joe-Gameplayer. I’ll save the rest for my explanations below, but anyone laying hands on a copy of the following should definitely rest before playing. Here we go…

Gheos by Rene Wiersma

Theme: (10 points) In Gheos, players take the part of gods shaping a planet to their own designs, allowing civilizations to either flourish or fall, while doing their level best to ensure that the world is populated with followers dedicated to their own cause, rather than that of the other players. Some of these civilizations are most definitely doomed, but then again some are, through the actions of the players, blessed. In fairness, the game isn’t truly about civilizations doomed or otherwise… it’s a world-building game in which civilizations play only a part, albeit a fairly important one…
So – Some of the game is about civilizations, some of which are doomed. I’m going halfsies here.
5 points.

Originality: (10 points) At the outset, this appears to be nothing more than another tile laying game, but the number of changes to overall strategy and game tactics that ride upon every activity engaged in by a player make Gheos truly unique. It is a bit like Civilization, Settler of Cataan, and several others, but only by the merest fraction of definition. As I mentioned above, it was quite a refreshing new look at board gaming in my book. Tile laying occupies the majority of player activity, but civilization placement, follower absorption, and the ramifications to these two vital components engendered by the placement, or replacement of a tile, as well the timing of scoring rounds make this a very different game than anything you might previously have played. Gang, I did the math… This simple game (standard layout would bring the rules in at about 6 pages tops) has a 6X4 decision making matrix! An astounding achievement. I only wish that I hadn’t noticed those slight similarities mentioned above.
9 points.

Cohesiveness: (15 points) Simple rules but complex strategy… complex enough to put Chess to shame. That says it in a nutshell. Hole-free. Mechanics that indeed make you feel like a god fighting for control of a planet. I’m going to scratch one point for the fact that there is a bit more math than some will enjoy, which diminishes the god-like feeling. It is quite simple to explain the rules, but deviously impossible to explain the strategy of this game. I truly believe, in fact, that there ARE those players who will pick this up (for the most part) in a game or two… and that there are also those who will NEVER understand the ramifications and strategies associated with particular actions in the game.
14 points (and a bow from your judge)

Components (5 points): To be easily playable, this game needs much larger tiles, and this in fact, was a constant beef among the play testers. This is a prototype, and I understand that the componentry was designed to be electronically portable, so I’ll not penalize heavily for that, but bigger, hard-backed (or cardboard backed) tiles would make this game far more enjoyable. I also didn’t see a “box cover” art-bit which others did provide, so I’m scoring down for that a bit too. On the bright side, the art is both cute and apropos, and I wouldn’t change it a bit myself.
3 points.

Fun (25 points): This game is a blast… for some. As I say that I can only pray that Rene does NOT try to change it so that it becomes a game that might be enjoyed by those with an IQ under 90… because those are the folks that will not like it. For example, if you have a friend that can’t understand that subtracting four is the same as adding negative four… well… that is the friend that won’t enjoy Gheos. We played a total of four games… and stayed up late, and I was still discovering new strategies to this game. (Perhaps that is indicative of my rather meager IQ). By the same token, the rules were simple enough that my 12-year old daughter played, and did quite well for herself!
Were this a personal matter, this would be a home-run 25 out of 25… as there are some folks that will never get this game, I need to mark down a bit… but again, Rene… PLEASE don’t change this game. It rocks on ice.
22 points for fun.

Side Note: Settlers of Cataan just got bumped off my desert island list… and this got put onto it. I only wish we had the budget to make this into a boxed game… and I may get back to you on that later this year.

Personal Prediction: Put in bigger tiles on 36-pound chip board and bang out a 4-color box cover that has several etheric gods near the top with there hands poised over a forming planet … and send this as a submission to Larry at Mayfair. If you want his personal e-mail, write me privately… I think he’d love this. Hell, tell him I sent you, it wouldn’t hurt my reputation any.

Total score: 53 points

Anonymous
Re: Gheos

Holy Toledo. Anybody else's mouth watering like mine?

When do we, the great unwashed, get a chance to check out this game that has knocked Settlers of Catan (gosh!) off at least one person's Desert Island list?

Bravo, Rene. Sounds like a job exceptionally well done.

DarkDream
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Good Job!

Excellent Job!

Sounds like you have a real winner!

-DarkDream

zaiga
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Gheos by Rene Wiersma

Chris,

You already got a lot of praise for doing the judging of this contest (practically all on your own), but still not nearly enough! Great job! I enjoyed reading your reviews, I think they were well written. It all shows you have a great passion for and a great understanding of board games.

Cutting out the components for "Gheos" and pasting them onto cardboard must have been a real pain! Sorry about that ;)

Thank you for this glowing review! I agree with the few negative remarks you made. Yes, the tiles are a bit smallish and I would love to see a version with larger tiles mounted and sturdy cardboard! I also agree that Gheos is a "gamer's game" and can be a bit "mathy" sometimes, that's just the way the game turned out.

Development of Gheos continued after I had send it off to this contest so the version you have judged is slightly different than my current version. Most of these changes are very subtle, finetuning the delicate balances in the game. Don't worry, it is not like I completely dumbed down the game ;)

Again, thanks for the great review and for the excellent job judging this contest!

- René Wiersma

jwarrend
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Joined: 08/03/2008
Gheos by Rene Wiersma

Congrats on what sounds like a fun game to play, although it's hard to say without knowing anything about the gameplay!

I looked at your journal briefly and noticed that you had a "random scoring round" effect that you subsequently removed. It's interesting, because my Civ game is going through similar stages. I put the effect in initially because I thought it would add to the tension to not know exactly when a scoring round would appear -- should I max out my points this turn, or go for more steady growth and set myself up for next turn, hoping that it will be the scoring round?

But then, we abandoned that because the game contained too few total turns, and the turns themselves were long enough that having a game be "6, 7, or 8" turns was a huge difference in time commitment between the 6-turn game and the 8 turn game.

Yet, now that I'm streamlining my game, I expect to put the random element back in, just to try it out. In the end, I may remove it again.

I'd be interested to hear more about how you were incorporating this scoring element into your game, and why you decided to remove it. For example, was it "fully random"? In my game, the "scoring event" cards are "semi-random" -- there's an event deck preparation algorithm that ensures that a scoring event will come up either in turn 2, 3, or 4, then again in either turn 5, 6, or 7, and so on. I wonder if something like this would have helped you, or whether you were doing it already.

Anyway, hope to hear more about this one, possibly on some publisher's "upcoming games" list!

Good luck,

Jeff

Anonymous
Gheos by Rene Wiersma

Each player in Gheos has the ability to institue a "scoring round" by playing a piece, and these pieces can generate either a standard or a double-points scoring round. Timing the scoring of the game (by the players) is one of the subtle (and rather cool) strategies of play.
(Strictly IMO).
XXOOCC

zaiga
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Gheos by Rene Wiersma

An early version of Gheos indeed had randomly triggered scoring rounds. At the end of a player's turn he refills his hand back up to 3 tiles. If one of those tiles was of a certain type the player showed it and there was a scoring round. The stacks of tiles were not prepared, so scoring rounds came up completely random.

I think random scoring rounds (or random length rounds) are a great game mechanic as they can add a lot of tension. As you mentioned they introduce the decision of either going for a long term strategy and hope that there will not come a scoring round in the near future or making an opportunistic move and hope there will be a scoring round soon. This works great in a light or medium-weight game.

However, as you might have guessed, Gheos is quite a brainburner and having such a large random (and often deciding) factor simply didn't fit with the rest of the game. So, it got axed and replaced by a different system which introduced strategy and decision making in another way (when to invoke a scoring round).

Some sort of algorithm to "prepare" the stacks, so that scoring tiles would appear more spread out wouldn't have worked in Gheos, because the real problem was that the player who drew the scoring tile had a big advantage and this, of course, was very random.

A game which has random scoring rounds is "Union Pacific". In that game the cards are spread out over the stack, so that the scoring rounds don't follow eachother too fast. Whoever draws the most scoring cards in UP still has a bit of advantage over the others, but because the actions in each individual turn in UP have a smaller effect on the whole game this isn't so much of a problem as it would have been in Gheos.

- René Wiersma

Anonymous
Gheos by Rene Wiersma

Rene!
I hope you didn't axe the "player determined scoring rounds" as I found that to be an awesomely innovative mechanic!

...at least leave it in as an optional rule...
XXOOCC

zaiga
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Gheos by Rene Wiersma

XXOOCC wrote:
Rene!
I hope you didn't axe the "player determined scoring rounds" as I found that to be an awesomely innovative mechanic!

...at least leave it in as an optional rule...
XXOOCC

Don't worry Chris, the "player determined scoring rounds" are still in there! :)

The randomly triggered scoring rounds were in an early playtest version of Gheos but got axed because they were too random for a game of this weight.

- Rene Wiersma

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